One week in Western Slovenia: A road trip itinerary with and without car

As a true Kiwi, there are few countries in the world Paul considers on par with or surpassing New Zealand when it comes to natural beauty. Iceland, Norway and Ecuador are strong contenders. And now we’re adding another one: Slovenia. We’d even argue that New Zealand can learn a thing or two from Slovenia when it comes to environmental sustainability.

Most people only make time to visit Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana and nearby Lake Bled. But there is heaps more to see. Our article will talk about the things to see and do in Western Slovenia, beyond the tourist hot spots that Bled and its famous lake have become. But first, let’s have a look what’s so great about Slovenia.

There is heaps more to see in (Western) Slovenia than touristy Lake Bled | Photo by David Mark on Pixabay
There is heaps more to see in (Western) Slovenia than touristy Lake Bled | Photo by David Mark on Pixabay

Three reasons why you should visit Slovenia

  1. Bordered by Austria to the north, Hungary to the east, Croatia to the south/south-east and Italy plus a slither of the Adriatic to the west, Slovenia is small (only marginally larger than New Jersey) but jam-packed with natural beauty and history.
  2. The streets are clean, waste is being recycled; the people are friendly, and Slovenian cuisine is mouth-wateringly delicious.
  3. Slovenia was the first former Yugoslavian country that joined the European Union and adopted the Euro, making travelling from Italy, Austria or any other country using the Euro super easy.

So, if you’re reading this because you’re on the fence whether to visit Slovenia or not: go ahead and book your trip. You won’t regret it.

Other Fun and Interesting Facts About Slovenia

  • It is also the smallest non-island state having a single and unique official language.
  • Borders four countries: Austria, Croatia, Hungary and Italy of which Croatia with 670 kilometres is the longest.
  • The population is just over 2.1 million people with 50% living in urban surrounds.
  • Ranked number 8 in the world on the 2019 Global Peace Index. New Zealand is number 2.
  • According to World Atlas, 54.5% of the land area is protected – making it number 2 on the world list.
Quaint little towns and stunning landscapes await those who venture off the beaten path | Photo by E-Klasse2010 on Pixabay
Quaint little towns and stunning landscapes await those who venture off the beaten path | Photo by E-Klasse2010 on Pixabay

Where to go in Western Slovenia?

Our itinerary starts and ends in Ljubljana and takes you through some of the most jaw-droppingly gorgeous landscapes we have ever come across on our travels. It allows you to experience (in a sustainable way) the best of both worlds:

  • historic Ljubljana, and picturesque, but touristy Lake Bled, as well as
  • the towering mountains, dense forests and turquoise rivers of the Julian Alps.
Suggested Stay (Nights) Destination - Click on links for more information
3 nights Ljubljana
1 night Bled
2 nights Julian Alps: Bovec and Kobarid

To check out the individual parts of our itinerary click on the tiles below:

Bled - 24 Hours in Bled
Julian Alps - 3 Days in the Julian Alps

While we have created this itinerary to suit a one week holiday, you can, of course, spend (heaps) more than a week exploring Slovenia. Just add more days to the destinations you’d like to see more of (or visit the south and east of the country).

When is the best time to visit (Western) Slovenia?

Our favourite travel seasons are late Spring (May/June) and early Autumn (September/October). It’s the perfect time to explore cities and national parks, with fewer tourists and more pleasant temperatures than in summer (or winter). That said, Slovenia could be visited all year round. It all depends on what you’re after.

How stunning does Šum Waterfall in the Vintgar Gorge look in winter? | Photo on Pixabay
How stunning does Šum Waterfall in the Vintgar Gorge look in winter? | Photo on Pixabay

How to get around Western Slovenia?

We usually prefer more sustainable transport options like trains and buses. So, let’s talk about those first.

By public transport

You can do our itinerary by bus. Just be aware though that it’s not the easiest or most practical option (and it is limited to the summer months – more on that below). The two bus companies servicing our suggested route are Arriva and Nomago.

From To Comments
Ljubljana Bled There are plenty of direct buses daily by Arriva.
Bled Bovec Buses only travel across Vršič Pass (Route 206) between 20 June and 30 September. During that time, there are direct Nomago buses from Bled to Bovec (in the afternoon), but no direct buses by Arriva. With Arriva, you need to travel from Bled to Jesenice, then from Jesenice to Kranjska Gora and finally from Kranjska Gora to Bovec.
Bovec Kobarid There are several direct buses daily by Nomago; also between Kobarid and Tolmin.
Kobarid(or Tolmin) Ljubljana There are several direct buses daily by Nomago. There are also train connections from Most na Soči (20km south-east of Kobarid/5km south of Tolmin) to Ljubljana.
Buses to Bled depart from Ljubljana's main bus terminal outside the train station (Ljubljana AP)
Arriva and Nomago buses depart from Ljubljana's main bus terminal outside the train station (Ljubljana AP)

Further reading on Slovenia

Discover one of the most picturesque capitals in Europe with an itinerary that shows you both the historic and the green face of the city. And after that, visit Bled and nearby Vintgar Gorge with our 24-hour itinerary and avoid the tourist crowds.

But did you know there is more to Slovenia than Ljubljana or Lake Bled? Find out how to spend a week in Western Slovenia beyond the tourist hotspots. The Julian Alps are easy to reach from Ljubljana or Lake Bled. Come and explore the great outdoors across Vršič Pass and the Soča Valley.

And while you are there, find out what traditional dishes to try (and where) with our food journey guide.

So what does it all cost and how affordable is it really to visit Slovenia? Find out how much it cost usfor accommodation, transport, food and tourist activities.

By car

For our itinerary around Western Slovenia, we recommend to hire a car. We visited end May/early June, when the buses over Vršič Pass were not yet operational. Our 5 day car hire from/to Ljubljana cost us less than EUR100. We hired our car from local company AvantCar through RentalCars and found the service to be impeccable. They are also conveniently located, only 5 minutes’ walk away from the main bus/train station in Ljubljana.

If you travel with your own or hired car, note that the route 206 over Vršič Pass is closed for about 5 months of the year due to (often heavy) snowfall. Check the traffic informaition portal for updates if in doubt. If route 206 is closed you can still cross the Julian Alps, just not over Vršič Pass but via the SS54/Italy (which is usually open all year).

Electric car Car Share Ljubljana
We hired a car to explore Western Slovenia (though not an electric one)

Have you travelled to Western Slovenia? What other tips can you share?

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